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Shortfall in International GHG Pledges

There is a shortfall between the pledges that the nearly 200 countries independently, and internationally as a whole, have made at the COP 21 in Paris last November, compared to the reality of what the planet has in its future. There is also a genuine effort to limit global temperature rise to 2 degree celsius average global temperature increase above the normal numbers (using historical numbers as a baseline for comparison) by the end of this century – the number that represents saving the planet from the worst effects of climate change.

In order to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change, the international community has pledged, in Paris, to increase the use of such sustainability technologies as renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, while decreasing fossil fuel use, in order to mitigate GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions…emissions which lead to global temperature rise. The idea is to keep global temperature rise to under 2 degrees celsius above normal (compared to historical values) by the end of this century.

scoreboard banner: result of international climate change action

The reality is that the average global temperature rise will be significantly greater than what was promised at Paris. A 5-8+ degrees fahrenheit rise in average temperature would result if the world simply maintains the status quo. The pledges in Paris, as well as actions by nations and private investors before and after COP21, demonstrate a genuine global effort in the research, development and effective use of sustainable technologies and measures. Of course, this is great, but global temperature rise still will be over the global temperature goals committed to in Paris.

In other words, at least 2+ degrees celsius change over the acceptable 2 degrees limit by the end of this century will result, even if all pledges by all countries are actually met. Even in this positive scenario (and the best-case scenario discribed below), as of now, there is still a shortfall – this NYTimes infographic clearly illustrates this problem — http://tinyurl.com/gct333

If all nearly 200 nations keep all of their promises from COP21, temperature rise will be limited to just 0.035°C (0.063°F) annually (best case). Even if every government on the planet that participated not only keeps every Paris promise, reduces all emissions as promised by 2030 (2030 was the year of note discussed in Paris), and shifts no emissions to other countries, but also keeps these emission reductions going throughout the rest of the century, temperature rise will be kept to just 3°C (5.4°F) by the year 2100.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his moratorium on drilling for oil in the Atlantic, the U.S.’s 3 year moratorium on building coal mines on federal land, China’s 3 year ban on building new coal mines, and their shutting down of thousands of older coal power plants are all very positive signs. Other promising signs include the U.S.’s increased development and use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies (as well as in China, India and much of the developing world). Europe has been leading the way for many years, in many respects, in terms of sustainability technologies. However, optimism, in the face of the undeniable math of climate change which clearly tells us more needs to be done, should be weighed carefully against climate change realities.

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